What does Buddhism say about divorce and remarriage?

Most Buddhists accept divorce and remarriage because:

  • there is no religious content to a marriage in between Buddhists and so 'undoing' that marriage is not a religious problem
  • unhappiness may prevent the couple from achieving enlightenment
  • an unhappy marriage may cause suffering, therefore Buddhists may feel divorce is the best option to avoid further suffering
  • divorce may be considered a compassionate action
  • remarriage can make the person happier and may cause less suffering than being alone

There are various reasons why a marriage might break down. Common reasons include adultery or continuous arguing. Some couples are unable to work through their problems.

Buddhist couples can go to their temple and receive support and advice from monks, nuns or other members of the congregation if they are experiencing marital problems.

What does this mean in practice?

Buddhist monks or nuns may themselves have been married prior to ordination and so can often combine religious with practical advice to people who come to them to discuss problems. Like other religious professionals, they can also accumulate over the years a lot of knowledge from their congregation which they can pass on to people who are experiencing difficulties.

Married people who want to separate and divorce will always be advised to proceed with as much harmony as possible, both for the sake of their families and children, but also for their own sake. It will only hurt them if they get very angry and resentful. It will be easier for each person if they try to feel compassion for their partner.

Buddhists may also choose to divorce in order to reduce suffering and to help achieve enlightenment. They may also choose to remarry – a way of finding happiness again and reducing suffering in their lives.

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